Adults with ADHD – Bearing Up Under the Shame

For many adults with ADHD, shame arises from the repeated failure to meet expectations from parents, teachers, friends, bosses, and the worldWhat happens when a child with ADD or ADHD grows up? Do they outgrow their ADD/ADHD, so their lives become smooth sailing? Far from it! They become adults with ADD/ADHD, which has its own set of problems. One of which is a lifetime’s accumulation of shame.“For many people with ADHD, shame arises from the repeated failure to meet expectations from parents, teachers, friends, bosses, and the world,” says Dr. William Dodson. Shame is so insidious, because it strikes at the core of who we are as people. It’s a much stronger emotion than guilt, because guilt is felt over something you’ve done. Shame attacks your worth as a person.

Shame is hard to deal with because we keep it hidden, so it doesn’t get resolved. With ADHD, you’re always being reminded that you’ve failed to measure up to what’s expected of you. You may even be stigmatized as lazy or willfully disruptive and disobedient. I’ve read one statistic that “children with ADHD receive 20,000 more negative messages by the age of 12.” What’s so harmful is that most of these critical messages are directed at the person, not at a specific deed or action.

Combine this negative feedback with feeling out of control and you have the recipe for a toxic mix of emotions – anger, rage, self-loathing, and shame. Some try to handle these feelings by striving for perfection, becoming a people pleaser, or blaming others. But those are not sustainable solutions for coping with ADD/ADHD.

What does work is having a good sense of humor. Laughing at yourself and your mistakes makes it easier to take responsibility and correct them. It takes practice, but self-acceptance and self-love are vital for healing and moving forward. It’s also important to find an ally or support group that can remind you of the goodness within you. When you become overly negative, your friends can help you adjust your attitude.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Breaking this cycle of failure and frustration is the primary goal of treatment for the ADD/ADHD adult. Clinical experience shows ADD/ADHD adults benefit from a multi-modal treatment – combining medications and psychosocial interventions. If your life feels out of control because of ADHD, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for you.

Read more on my website: ADD/ADHD in Adults and Clear the Clutter.

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